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In-depth reviews

Mazda 6 review - Engines, performance and drive

The diesels are strong, but while the non-turbo petrol engines perform well, they’re probably too revvy for this class

From the company that makes the marvellous MX-5 roadster, you’d hope the Mazda 6 would be a sporty and satisfying car to drive. And you won’t be disappointed. In giving it a driver-focused character, Mazda has built something that feels more agile than any crossover of SUV – although mindful of its market, this doesn’t mean compromise elsewhere.

A criticism of earlier examples of the Mazda 6 was that the ride was perhaps a bit too firm and sporting. But far-reaching detail revisions in 2015 cured this for the mainstream versions: now, it’s only the Sport Nav that has a taut ride, which means it can fidget around town over bumps and potholes, but does still smooth out at speed.

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The benefit of this sporty suspension is excellent handling across all versions of the 6. Turn-in is sharp, there’s plenty of grip (particularly with the Sport Nav’s 19-inch wheels) and feedback through the steering is accomplished. The 6 is a great driver’s car and owners seem to really rate its talents behind the wheel.

Mazda's 2016 update for the 6 included an innovative new system called 'G-Vectoring'. Essentially, it subtly adjusts torque delivery according to steering angle with the aim of providing a more stable and comfortable driving experience - different to more grip-focused torque vectoring systems. While various graphs and videos by Mazda show it working, we were unable to really detect it from behind the wheel - although it could benefit passenger comfort on long drives.

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Best family cars

The only omission in the Mazda 6 engine range is a truly sporty engine to make the most of this talented chassis - the closest you'll get is the 2.5-lite four-cylinder introduced with the 2018 update, which has 191bhp, although that's still not enough to overpower the chassis.

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All Mazda 6 models come with Smart City Brake autonomous emergency braking as standard. It’s a useful safety aid, although in town, owners are more likely to appreciate the convenient hill hold assist function.  

Engines

Two engines form the core of the Mazda 6 range: a 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol and 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D diesel. Both are offered in two power outputs: the petrol with 143bhp or 162bhp, and the diesel with 148bhp or 181bhp. Both are in-house Mazda designs not shared with any other car maker. 

The SkyActiv-D engines are easily the most popular. They have an unusually low compression ratio for a diesel, which is good for efficiency and emissions: Mazda prefers this approach with a slightly larger capacity than the 2.0-litre engines of many rivals. 

The regular SkyActiv-D 150 diesel produces 148bhp and 380Nm between 1,800rpm and 2,600rpm. It takes the car from 0-62mph in 10.0 seconds and on to a top speed of 131mph, and is a very well rounded engine with a smooth nature, plenty of punch and linear power delivery. Hooked up with Mazda’s short-throw six-speed manual gearbox, it’s a satisfying choice.

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The SkyActiv-D 184 offers more performance and pulling power, even if it’s a bit peakier, with the 445Nm of torque plateauing at 2,000rpm. This car is noticeably faster, though, sprinting from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds in the manual model and hitting a top speed of 141mph. The extra power is satisfying and it’s no less refined than the low-power unit. Both diesel engines can be combined with Mazda’s six-speed automatic gearbox option. Performance does suffer a little, though.

In contrast to the diesel, the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol engine has an unusually high compression ratio, again for efficiency and power. Both versions produce their maximum power at a heady 6,000rpm, and don’t deliver their identical peak torque of 213Nm until 4,000rpm. Good job the gearbox is as snappy as it is in the diesel; you need to work it.

The two petrol cars serve up similar performance; it’s only if you frequently use high revs that you’ll feel the benefit of the extra power. Most drivers won’t, because while the 162bhp version is a smooth and effervescent engine, it’s rather vocal and prominent when revved hard. This is the sort of noise you wouldn’t mind in an MX-5, but isn’t really what you expect from this class of car. The low-power petrol engine is offered with the six-speed automatic option as well. 

A new addition for 2018 was the 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G 194 petrol. This has 191bhp and comes with the six-speed gearbox as standard. It's capable of 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds, making it the fastest model in the range. 

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 SE-L Nav+ 4dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £24,130

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.2d SE-L Nav+ 4dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £27,130

Fastest

  • Name
    2.5 GT Sport Nav+ 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £31,510
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